On our second day in St Petersburg Russia, we went on an excursion to visit the two (2) most famous summer palaces outside the city.
The first was Catherine Palace, in the town of Pushkin. It was the preferred getaway for Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, and her daughter, Catherine the Great. The palace was named for Peter the Great’s wife, who was also a Catherine. This palace could be the most gilded that I have ever seen. The amount of gold leaf was staggering, so much that Lee & I began to resent these royals because of their ridiculous extravagance.
Catherine Palace is certainly gorgeous. The blue color of the exterior is positively lovely.
I was very surprised that we were allowed to take pictures inside the palace (we were not able to do so in Peterhof). One of the most ornate rooms is the Light Room, a huge reception room with gold accents all over the walls.
The most celebrated room in the palace is the Amber Room, whose walls are made of the precious material. Hitler’s Army stole the amber and sent it to Germany where it eventually disappeared, but the room was totally restored at great expense when the Catherine Palace was rebuilt.
Tsarina Elizabeth, who was responsible for much of the building, almost bankrupted the Russian Treasury with her uncontrolled spending. She died with over 15,000 gowns in her closet because she never wore the same dress twice. A display in the palace shows Elizabeth in one of her gowns.
The gardens and grounds of the palace are equally magnificent.
There were also numerous other buildings on the property which made this a tranquil and spiritual refuge from the city and the affairs of state.
After a Russian lunch at the palace, we headed for Peterhof, the summer palace of Peter the Great, designed and supervised by him personally. The palace is, of course, magnificent. It was built to rival Versailles and appears to have done so.
The interior had much less gold than the Catherine Palace but was equally splendid.
Here the gardens and grounds are the most spectacular that I have ever seen. The focus of the grounds is the Grand Cascade, the most elaborate and ornate fountain in the world.
The centerpiece of the fountain is a golden sculpture of Samson tearing open the jaws of a lion. There are no water pumps involved in any of the many fountains at Peterhof; water is circulated by gravity.
Another lovely fountain features Triton, a sea God.
Other interesting sights that we saw along the way to or from the palaces were the following:
1. A memorial to the victims of the 900-day siege of St Petersburg during World War II
2. A statue of poet Alexander Pushkin, in a garden just outside the Catherine Palace